In politics, it is always useful to be reminded of the basics. Politics can get complicated. Political debate can wander into all manner of areas. There is a vast swathe between sweeping generalities and persnickety hair-splitting. Political debates have a tendency to try and expand to fill that space. So it is useful, once in a while, to have the superfluous material swept away by some comment that puts the whole issue into a nutshell. Granular analysis is all very well so long as you don’t succumb to losing sight of what it is that you’re analysing. The big picture can be too much to take in. Sometimes it’s good to be focused on what is common to the issue at all levels of analysis.
We should be grateful, therefore, to Clive Lewis MP (Labour, Norwich South) for his precise statement of the choice facing Scotland.
Post-Brexit it now seems increasingly clear the Scottish people have two clear choices before them:
1. Union with a declining imperial power, ruled by hard-right, neoliberal English nationalists – or (cont)— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 10, 2021
2. Vote for Scottish independence and look to rejoin the EU, an emerging power with democratic institutions gaining in power, not receding. Hmmmm 🤔— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 10, 2021
This statement is particularly welcome having been made by an English MP. Not because the opinions of English MPs are more pertinent – generally they are less so – but because the statement will inevitably be pounced upon by the media. It has novelty value.
I particularly like the fact that Clive Lewis frames the issue in terms of the Union. He clearly identifies the Union as the problem. Would that SNP politicians would do likewise rather more than has been their habit and practice. Not that the statement does not specify Tory governments. Whether intended or not, this would seem to imply that any British government in the foreseeable future is likely to be dominated by “hard-right, neoliberal English nationalists”. Whether intentionally or not, he’s right.
If you find option one as unutterably abhorrent as I do then you will naturally want to ensure that option two is at least kept open to us. That will be your overriding priority just as it is mine. You will be asking yourself what you can do to help ensure independence is a choice we’re able to make even if not immediately.
Another thing I like about what Clive Lewis says is that it doesn’t identify any other options. No muddying of the waters with talk of ‘federalism’ or ‘devo-max’ or any other such nonsense. If Unionists are so convinced that the Union is of such great benefit to Scotland then they should be quite undaunted by the prospect of going to the people of independent Scotland with a proposal to take powers away from the Parliament they elect and give those powers to the parliament in a neighbouring country where Scotland’s voters have no influence whatever. I’m sure Douglas Ross would relish the challenge of selling the Union to Scotland. He’s a man who has the courage of his convictions, is he not? Isn’t he? Is he? Maybe I’m thinking of a different Douglas Ross.
Let me state those options again.
- Union with a declining imperial power, ruled by hard-right, neoliberal English nationalists.
- Independence and membership of the EU, an emerging power with democratic institutions gaining in power, not receding.
That’s it! Those are the only options available to us. If you can even regard the first one as an option. There is no ‘third way’. Anything presented to you as a ‘third way’ is just option one in disguise. Union with England-as-Britain? Or independence? There it is! Take your pick!
Of course, you can’t choose at the moment. At the moment there is no means by which you can make this choice. There is no democratic process in place or in prospect or in planning which would allow you to exercise your inalienable democratic right of self-determination. So your first task is to secure such a process.
What are your choices in that regard? What options might there be in terms of ways in which the people of Scotland might exercise our right of self-determination? Might those options be stated as concisely and unambiguously as those spelled out by Clive Lewis?
We are told by those who speak for each side of the constitutional divide that there is only one choice – the Section 30 process. I’m going to assume everybody reading this knows what that implies. Basically, a repeat of the process followed in the 2014 referendum – despite the fact that there’s very little that hasn’t changed since then. And nothing of any great significance.
But the Section 30 process won’t work. It cannot provide for a free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination. We know that with such a high degree of certainty that we’d be fools not to treat it as established fact. The British don’t want to allow a referendum at all. So what makes anybody imagine that they’d be willing to go along with a free and fair referendum? It makes no sense!
The Section 30 process currently insisted upon by both the Scottish and British governments is not a genuine option at all. So, what other options do we have?
There isn’t one. There is no other option being offered to us right now. It’s the Section 30 process – take it or leave it. What would be the point of taking it if it’s only being offered because it won’t do what we want it to do – allow the free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination?
If the only option on offer isn’t an option at all, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a big empty space where the process should be that allows us to properly exercise our right to choose the form of government which best serves our needs, priorities and aspirations. Self-evidently, we have to fill that space. We have to create the process.
We know the specifications for this process. We know what mechanisms are available to us. We know that as the sovereign people of Scotland we have the absolute and inalienable right to formulate and follow a process that satisfies our needs while conforming to the dictates of fundamental democratic principles and conforming to all relevant international norms and conventions.
So why is this not even being discussed?
Maybe we need to ask Clive Lewis to state the issue. Perhaps he would do so something like this –
- Create a process within our existing democratic institutions by which Scotland’s right of self-determination might be exercised in a free and fair manner absent the involvement of any other nation.
- See option 1 above.